I’m sure that one of the last things on a young musicians mind when they form a band, is the thought that they could be starting a business, or creating a brand. But, whether they like it or not, that’s exactly what they are doing.
Being prepared for that and giving it some thought makes a huge difference to a bands potential career. It could even be one of the things that helps the band actually forge a career in the music business in the first place and it can certainly help prolong that career.
The music business has changed enormously since those heady days of the 1960’s and 70’s, when just about any decent band with a few good songs seemed to be able to get a recording contract with one of the many record labels that were around back then.
When The Beatles and the Rolling Stones had their first taste of success, back in the early 1960’s, they didn’t expect that success to last more than a year, or 18 months. If they were lucky.
Well, we all know how wrong they were about that don’t we? Especially as the Rolling Stones are currently celebrating 50 years together, by playing gigs in London and New York. And let’s not forget that although The Beatles split up in 1970, they are still one of the biggest selling bands today, 50 years after the release of their first single ‘Love Me Do’.
Back then playing popular music was not seen as a potential career move, but it is today.
I’m not trying to suggest that the reason musicians start playing in bands and writing their own music is any different to what it was back in the early 1960’s. But, they now know that it could well be the route to a career and one that may well last for many years too. That is a big difference.
Of course, the music industry has changed in many other ways too. There are now far fewer record labels around these days, especially ones that aren’t ultimately owned by one of major companies and who actually have the clout to do anything really substantial with a new band.
There are also far more bands and musicians fighting for that dwindling number of recording contracts. And i haven’t even mentioned yet the advent and huge influence of the Internet on the way that music is played, bought, listened to, accessed, shared and thought about nowadays.
The old ways of rehearsing in your bedroom, or garage and then getting in a van to play gigs wherever you could find them, in the hope that an A & R man might be there, think you were ‘the next big thing’ and sign you up on the spot, have gone. Yes, that kind of thing does still happen, but things are done differently these days.
I remember when acts like Lily Allen, or the Arctic Monkeys could get signed to a major label off the back of a campaign on MySpace. I know that MySpace is still there (just) and has had a re-launch, but i’m sure you get my drift?
And, of course, since the days of MySpace we have seen the rise and rise of the influence of such tv shows as ‘X Factor’, ‘Pop Idol’ etc etc. All of whom seem to be only interested in solo performers who like to sing other people’s songs.
So, the chances of your band getting noticed and ultimately signed are getting harder by the year. Hence the fact that so many bands now go down the ‘self release’ route, in the hope that they can at least get their own music ‘out there’, earn a bit of money and maybe get noticed on the way.
But, it’s the getting noticed that’s the hard part and that’s where thinking of yourself as a business, or a brand could make all the difference.
Think back to The Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Sure, they are two of the biggest bands that the world has ever seen and it can’t be denied that they’ve both written some mighty fine songs over the years. But, is that the only reason that they’re still as big as they are, 50 years later?
Both bands are now brands that are instantly recognisable for several reasons.
For The Beatles, think of the way that the band’s name is always shown, with the letters ‘B’ and ‘T’ bigger than the rest.
Think of both the Apple name and the imagery that goes with it. Don’t forget that The Beatles were in dispute for years with Apple Computers about that Apple name. It really was that important to both sides.
And for the Rolling Stones, just think of their own classic logo.
It’s one of those logo’s that’s so famous, you don’t even need to have the band’s name next to it to know who, or what it represents. In this category you could also include the Nike ‘Swoosh’ and the Apple Computers logo of the apple with a bite out of it as well, for a non musical perspective.
So, if you needed proof of how important a band, or company logo can be, just think of those examples i’ve just given. You probably didn’t even need to see them to be able to picture the logo’s in your mind. And let’s not forget the importance of the font too.
But, just because your band isn’t The Beatles, or you’re not a huge multi-national company like Nike, doesn’t mean that your logo, or image isn’t equally as important to you and to your future. And, that’s what so many young bands fail to realise. Both The Beatles and Nike were small fry once, but their longevity has come about, at least partly, because of that instant recognisablity.
We’ve all heard people talk about a particular bands ‘image’ haven’t we. Well, that image is a part of their branding, even if they didn’t realise it at the time.
Image and branding have always been important for bands and there are probably many examples you can think of yourself, especially when you put your mind to it. Motorhead and Iron Maiden anyone?
So, what do you need to do and how can you do it? Well, we’ll be talking about aspects of that in future posts, but here are some pointers.
Design a logo.
Post good quality photo’s and videos.
Create hype and a vibe.
Keep fans in touch.
Define your expectations.
Imagine you had all the money in the world, what would you do with it? What would you want?
If you define what you want, then you can map out how to get it. Then take the money out of the equation and find a way to achieve it.
Easy it is not, but by learning your trade, controlling what you do, thinking of yourself as a brand and doing that day after day after day, you will become a master of it and the master of your own destiny into the bargain.
What do you want?
We are here to help.
Andy Gunton (with a little help from Richard)